Off the Beaten Path: More Unknown Trails at Lake Denmark

Early last winter, I gloated as New Jersey was snowbound, while there was barely enough to pull off the National Championships in Rumford ME.  This year, we have disgustingly warm temperatures and no snow in the foreseeable future.  Specific training be damned; I’ve rebelled a bit against rollerskiing.

When I wrote about running at Snake Hill Road, I promised a commenter additional reporting about running off the beaten path.  It’s only taken me five months, but here we are.  Yesterday, I ran again at Lake Denmark.  Yeah, it’s not a huge adventure out west with a stupendous, glaciated mountain backdrop.  But 15 years of rollerskiing out here have kindled the urge to know more about these woods.

If you head out here in hunting season, you MUST wear orange.  This open land isn’t part of the Morris County Park system.  To my knowledge, it’s not part of Picatinny Arsenal either.  It wouldn’t be prudent to run up the gated road that’s labeled “small arms range.”

For years, the very obvious ATV trail that crosses Lake Denmark Road south of the Sterigenics building piqued my curiosity.  Two weeks ago, I dove in there and ran south, still looking for that magic trail that will link up with the trails off Snake Hill Road.

Ultimately, heading south, I ran out of trail, but not where I expected.  Through the trees, I approached back yards and houses.  It looked like these trails back into part of Lake Telemark.

Yesterday, I headed north.  Plunging downhill from the road, the ATV trail crosses two brooks before climbing to a north-south intersection.  The forest is primarily hardwood, with evergreens strewn here and there.  At this time of year, the bare branches of the oak and maple trees reached toward the ski, supplicating.  Two stray rhododendrons spread their green canopies.  Mountain bikers left fresh tire tracks, and motorized vehicles had been here recently as well.

Turning north, in a few hundred years you run into a fence surrounding the Radiation Technology superfund site.  Unfortunately, there’s a huge gap in the chain link fence that you can drive a truck through.

Having no wish to see two-headed deer, I veered east on another trail following the fence line.  Another intersection.  Heading south, it was the same thing.  You end up at Lake Telemark.  Heading north, you run back into the fence surrounding Radiation Technology.  One trail runs along the perimeter of the property.

Another one takes you northeast again, to a bluff overlooking the Rockaway Twp municipal garage on Green Pond Road.  Following the fence, you come out to the power line right-of-way.  I went to the ridge top and took a couple of pictures.  The houses north of the power line are part of that Countryside development.

Heading back, I couldn’t resist the trail going into the woods north of the power lines.  Not fifty yards in, I almost ran into a hunter’s blind.  I’m glad I wore orange today.  It was a one-person tent camouflaged to look like a medium-sized glacial erratic.  It’s visible from the power lines, but from there you’d never know it was anything but a big rock.  That seemed like a cue to head back to my car.

Although I haven’t found that elusive connection to Snake Hill Road, I want to get back there and get north of the power lines.  There’s plenty more to explore.  I don’t think it’s quite big enough for a four hour expedition, but there’s plenty of room for hours of fun.  It’s long odds that you’ll be able to cross Green Pond Road to Wildcat Ridge, but I intend to find out.

Note:  all of the trails described are unmarked roads big enough to accommodate an all terrain vehicle.  A compass or GPS device would be a good idea.  If you decide to follow an animal track off one of the ATV roads, the sameness of the woods could be disorienting.

To the best of my knowledge, none of this land is posted.  If in fact it is, please leave a comment.